David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW: A Retelling Prose — Act 4, Scene 2

 — 4.2 —

Tranio and Hortensio were speaking in front of Baptista’s house. Tranio was still disguised as his master, Lucentio, and Hortensio was still disguised as the tutor Litio. Hortensio had been spying on Bianca and was convinced that she and the tutor Cambio — who was really Lucentio in disguise, although Hortensio did not know that — were in love.

Tranio said, “Is it really possible, friend Litio, that Mistress Bianca fancies any one other than me, Lucentio? I tell you, sir, she seems to treat me encouragingly, although you say that she is completely deceiving me. Is she really leading me on?”

“Sir, to satisfy you that what I have said is true,” Hortensio replied, “stand hidden here and watch the interaction of tutor Cambio and student Bianca.”

Lucentio and Bianca walked into the garden for a lesson.

Lucentio asked, “Bianca, have you learned anything from what you have read?”

“Which book are you reading? Answer me that first,” Bianca said.

“I am reading a book whose advice I follow: Ovid’s The Art of Love.”

Lucentio thought, It is a manual on how to seduce women.

Bianca said, “I hope that you are a master in that art.”

“And I hope that you will prove to be the mistress of my heart!”

Hortensio said, “They are fast learners! What do you think? Do you still think that Bianca loves no one except for you?”

“Bianca’s ‘love’ for me has been deceiving and deceitful,” Tranio said. “Women are unfaithful. What I have seen here is incredible, Litio.”

Hortensio decided to reveal his true identity: “Be mistaken no more. I am not Litio. I am Hortensio, who disguised myself as a music tutor to be close to Bianca and woo her. But I am ashamed that I have acted in this way. Bianca is not worthy of my wooing her. She prefers a low-born man like Cambio to a gentleman of high birth like me. She loves a peasant. She does not love me.”

Tranio replied, “Signior Hortensio, I have often heard that you loved Bianca with all your heart. My eyes are now witnesses of her unworthiness and unfaithfulness. I am ready — like you — to stop wooing Bianca. Do you approve of my decision?”

“Look at how they kiss and court each other!” Hortensio said. “I do approve of your decision. Let’s shake on it. Here and now I firmly vow never to woo Bianca — I do give her up because she is unworthy of all the former favors that I have previously given to her.”

“And here I take the unfeigned oath that I will never marry her even if she begs me to,” Tranio said. “To Hell with her! Look at how unashamedly she pursues him!”

“I wish that everyone would vow not to marry Bianca so that she would be forced to marry her penniless tutor or be an old maid,” Hortensio said. “To help ensure that I keep my oath, I will be married to a wealthy widow before three days have passed. This widow has loved me as long as I have loved this proud and disdainful Bianca. And so farewell, Signior Lucentio. Kindness in women, not their beauteous looks, shall win my love, and so I take my leave. I will keep the vow that I have made and you have witnessed.”

He exited.

Tranio, of course, was happy that Hortensio had decided to marry a wealthy widow rather than Bianca. Hortensio was now one less rival suitor to Bianca, and his withdrawal made it more likely that the real Lucentio would succeed in marrying Bianca.

Tranio went over to Lucentio and Bianca and said, “Mistress Bianca, may God bless you with such happiness as belongs to a lover. I have caught you two courting, and both Hortensio and I have sworn not to marry you.”

“Tranio, are you joking?” Bianca said. “Has Hortensio really sworn not to marry me?”

“Bianca, we have both sworn not to marry you.”

Lucentio had figured out that the tutor Litio was really Hortensio in disguise. He said, “Then we are rid of Litio.”

“Yes, you are,” Tranio said. “He said that he will marry a merry widow. He intends to woo and wed her quickly.”

“May God give him joy!” Bianca said.

“Hortensio will tame the widow,” Tranio said.

“He saysthat he will, Tranio,” Bianca replied.

“Indeed, he has gone to the taming-school.”

“The taming-school?” Bianca said. “Is there really such a place?”

“Yes, there is,” Tranio said, “and Petruchio is the schoolmaster. He teaches the right tricks for taming a shrew and her chattering tongue. Hortensio has gone to visit Petruchio in Verona.”

Lucentio’s other servant, Biondello, arrived and said, “Master, I have been on the lookout so long for a man who will pretend to be your father that I am dog-weary, but at last I have spied a Heaven-sent old man coming down the hill. He is the right kind of man to pretend to be your father.”

“What is he like, Biondello?” Lucentio asked.

“Master, he is a merchant or perhaps a pedant, I do not know for sure, but his clothing, walk, and appearance are like those of a father.”

“What do we do now, Tranio?” Lucentio asked.

“If he is credulous and trusts the tale I will tell him,” Tranio said, “I will make him glad to pretend to be your father, Vincentio, and to make promises to Baptista Minola about the dower that I — while pretending to be you — have promised for Bianca. He will pass as your father. Now you and Bianca go inside and leave me alone to talk to him.”

Lucentio and Bianca went inside.

The old man arrived, walking on the street outside Baptista’s house.

The old man saw Tranio and greeted him, “God bless you, sir!”

Tranio walked over to the old man and said, “And may God bless you, sir! You are welcome. Do you have far to travel, or have you reached your destination?”

“I will stay here for a week or two, but then I will travel farther. I will go to Rome and then to Tripoli, if God permits.”

“Where are you from, please?”

“I am from Mantua.”

“From Mantua, sir!” Tranio pretended to be shocked. “God forbid! Why have you come to Padua, where your life is in danger?”

“My life is in danger!” the old man said. “That is hard news! Why is my life in danger?”

“It is death for anyone in Mantua to come to Padua,” Tranio said. “Don’t you know the cause? The Duke of Padua, who is quarreling with the Duke of Mantua, has ordered all Mantuan ships to be detained in Venice. News of the Dukes’ quarrel has spread widely. It is a marvel that you have not yet heard about it, but then you are newly arrived in Padua. Otherwise, you would have heard about it.”

“This is extremely bad news for me,” the old man said. “For I have promissory notes from Florence that I must exchange here for cash.”

“Well, sir, I will do you a favor and also give you advice,” Tranio said. “First, tell me, have you ever been in Pisa?”

“Yes, sir,” the old man said. “I have often been in Pisa, which is renowned for grave and wise citizens.”

“Among these grave and wise citizens, do you know a certain Vincentio?”

“I do not know him personally, but I have heard of him,” the old man said. “He is a merchant of immense wealth.”

“He is my father, sir,” Tranio lied, “and, it is true to say, in appearance he somewhat resembles you.”

Biondello thought, Vincentio and this old man resemble each other as much as do an apple and an oyster, but that hardly matters.

“To save your life in these extremely dangerous circumstances, I will do you a favor for my father’s sake. It is fortunate that you resemble Vincentio because you can pretend to be him and assume his name and reputation. You will safely stay in my house. Just be careful to stay in character as my father — that is important. That way, you can stay in Padua until you have finished your business here. If you wish to accept my kind offer, you are welcome to do so.”

“Sir, I do accept your kind offer,” the old man said. “For ever after, I will consider you the savior of my life and liberty.”

“Then go with me and we will put this plan in action,” Tranio said. “As we walk, let me give you information. My father is expected here any day now to make a formal agreement about a dower in marriage — I will be married to one of the daughters of a certain Baptista here. I will teach you what to say and what to do, and I will dress you in clothing that will suit the role you will play.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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